Thursday, January 26, 2012

Forget Polar Bears -Rhinos face extinction now!

While the glamour poster stars of the Save The Planet movement grab the public attention -yes they are cute and cuddly, but try hugging one!- rhino are being driven to extinction. We can argue all we like about the fate of polar bears given climate change, but the facts are polar bear numbers are well up on 1970's numbers when hunting brought their numbers to an alarming low of around 7,000. Restrictions on indigenous peoples hunting for meat and fur, and trophy hunting has seen numbers rise to an estimated 23-25,000.
Meanwhile, rhino don't have the luxury of time: a staggering 488 rhino were slaughtered in South Africa alone in 2011. Less than 27,000 rhino of all species exist and the rate of poaching is increasing.

Stop the poaching and rhino numbers will recover, as happened with polar bear numbers.

Rhino have been around for 50 million years and were widespread (occurring in North America and Europe as well as in Africa and Asia), but Traditional Chinese Medicine beliefs are fuelling poaching throughout Africa and Asia. Rising affluence in China and Vietnam mean more people there can afford these ‘treatments’ and criminal syndicates are illegally driving poaching and trafficking of rhino horn to supply this market. Fetching $US65,000 a kilo on the blackmarket, corruption at all levels of Government and along the chain of export to Asian markets make it extremely difficult to stamp out the trade, threatening the very existence of Rhino on this planet.  

It is thought that the surge in poaching after 2008 may have been linked to comments made by an ex -premier of South Korea when he announced he used rhino horn for his cancer, fuelling a growing myth that rhino horn cures cancer. Rhino horn was traditionally prescribed as a cure for sexual dysfunction in Traditional Chinese Medicine, but now is being promoted as a cure for almost any ailment.  In 2010, Elle Macpherson stupidly quipped she used powdered rhino horn to combat ageing. So the myth that rhino horn is medicine for any ailment has been growing concurrent at a time when rising Chinese affluence means more can afford this. At $65,000 a kilo, vested Chinese and Vietnamese criminal interests will be keen to see the myths promoted!

Today, only five species of rhino survive. All rhinos are under threat of, and most species are on the verge of, extinction. Unlike Polar Bears, environmental adaptation isn't going to save them -only drastic action against human predation can!
Estimates are:
White rhino: 20,000
Black rhino: 4,500
Greater One-horned rhino: 2,800
Sumatran Rhino: 200
Javan Rhino: 44

2007 saw 13 killed in South Africa. However rhino poaching escalated to 488 killed in SA in 2011. Plot those figures on a graph and you'll see rhino exterminated in less than a decade.
2011:   448!   

Rhino horn is not medicine, it is Keratin, merely the same as hair and toenails.

We must act urgently to protect the remaining 27,000. We must educate to change beliefs. Volunteers are mainly manning the APU units, risking their their lives to protect rhino. Living rough in the bush for days, ever vigilant, and catching and killing poachers if necessary. Governments must take strong action to fully fund anti-poaching units, and lift their abysmal prosecution rate.

Share this article across your social media networks. Help publicise this issue. Let's generate more worldwide pressure on Governments to act now!



Bret @ Green Global Travel said...

Sorry, Jim. You know I love you, but you lost me completely with your opening paragraph. I can't share any story that suggests ignoring the plight of one endangered species in favor of another, because I think ALL great creatures deserve saving. The dismissive negativity of the first graph is a complete turn-off for me as a reader who loves wildlife.

Rachel Hoyt said...

Wow. I'm a bit shocked by Bret's comment above. I'm not in favor of forgetting one endangered species in favor of another either, but I do believe the main threat against the polar bear is no longer hunters, but the drastic changes to their environment due to global warming. So, I am in favor of keeping polar bears and penguins as the spokes-animals for global warming and focus endangered species efforts on those that are suffering most. I honestly would never have known that Rhinos were so close to extinction without Jim and his blog and think he chose a powerful way to state the desparation the Rhinos face.

Jim said...

Polar bears are doing OK, since restrictions were placed on hunting them. And despite what we are told about global warming, lastest average global temperature figures show world temperatures are at same as 15 years where's the global warming threat to polar bears?
The biggest threat has always been human interference with them.
So the point made that restricting hunting polar bears has allowed populations to treble since 70's is used to illustrate how we protect rhino- stop the poaching/hunting.
If anyone wants to verify global temperature changes, then go here-

Jim said...

Btw, polar bears are far more adaptable than we are lead to believe. They have huge ranges of wilderness areas they can migrate to, and adapt to new food sources. They don't just hunt seals but will scavenge food from whatever is going. Warming will mean some food species decline but other species will relish warmer climes and move their ranges north. It may allow other species to flourish.
Polar bears will adapt. They may decline in numbers but the fact they can adapt, and have huge areas of wilderness will ensure they survive. That is Nature.
However, rhino have no wilderness areas left- it's all gone, albeit a relative few National Parks.
There is nowhere they can escape to.
From this perspective, I maintain rhino need far more attention than polar bears do. Let's elevate them to the environmental glamour animals.